Review: The Word Is Murder

The Word Is Murder by Anthony HorowitzTitle: The Word Is Murder

Author: Anthony Horowitz

Genre: Mystery, Crime, Fiction

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5 stars)

The New York Times bestselling author of Magpie Murders and Moriarty brilliantly reinvents the classic crime novel once again with this clever and inventive mystery starring a fictional version of the author himself as the Watson to a modern-day Holmes, investigating a case involving buried secrets, murder, and a trail of bloody clues.

A woman crosses a London street.

It is just after 11am on a bright spring morning, and she is going into a funeral parlor to plan her own service.

Six hours later the woman is dead, strangled with a crimson curtain cord in her own home.

Enter disgraced police detective Daniel Hawthorne, a brilliant, eccentric man as quick with an insult as he is to crack a case. And Hawthorne has a partner, the celebrated novelist Anthony Horowitz, curious about the case and looking for new material.

As brusque, impatient, and annoying as Hawthorne can be, Horowitz—a seasoned hand when it comes to crime stories—suspects the detective may be on to something, and is irresistibly drawn into the mystery. But as the case unfolds, Horowitz realizes he’s at the center of a story he can’t control . . . and that his brilliant partner may be hiding dark and mysterious secrets of his own.

A masterful and tricky mystery which plays games at many levels, The Word Is Murder is Anthony Horowitz at his very best.


Hawthorne certainly had a magnetic personality. Although, of course, magnets can repel as well as attract.

I knew from the start that The Word Is Murder was going to be unlike anything I’d ever read. Anthony Horowitz has written himself into his next mystery novel, during which he gets more than he bargained for in a murder mystery he was hoping to use as inspiration for his next mystery novel. Yes, you read that correctly.

Horowitz’s fictional version of himself enters into an unlikely partnership with a disgraced detective he never much cared for. It’s a symbiotic relationship: the prickly ex-detective Hawthorne wants to be immortalized on paper, and he drops a case in Horowitz’s lap that’s intriguing enough to have Horowitz cast his reservations aside. But Hawthorne’s personality doesn’t make tagging along for the investigation a trivial process; they’re butting heads left and right over everything from Hawthorne refusing to share slivers of his personal life to the eventual title of the novel itself (he’s a proponent of Hawthorne Investigates, much to Horowitz’s continued dismay). I found myself in the same boat as our narrator, constantly straddling the line between irritated and begrudgingly impressed by Hawthorne’s unconventional methods, and I loved the meta undercurrent throughout the whole novel where Horowitz stresses over how Hawthorne will translate into a story’s protagonist.

The plot was a blast to read. We join Hawthorne and Horowitz as they chase obscure leads throughout London, pulling at even the slimmest of threads and watching them unravel. At the core of the mystery is a woman who planned her own funeral and was murdered later that same day, but there are secrets buried deep in her past and in the lives of those around her, and nothing is what it seems. Some parts of the mystery were predictable, but others kept me guessing throughout, even despite the narrator’s meta foreshadowing and Hawthorne’s ability to identify the truth of a scene upon first glance. Horowitz obsesses over the details, never sure which seemingly tangential clues will be the next to get Hawthorne’s spotlight, and by the end of the novel when everything clicks into place, you really do get the sense the answers were right there in front of you all along.

The Word Is Murder is a delight of a novel and easily one of the most creative endeavors I’ve read all year. It’s incredibly self-aware and meta, and half the fun is trying to pick out the truth from the embellishments from the flat-out fiction. I absolutely loved the ending and found it befitting of the tone of the entire story and Hawthorne and Horowitz’s tumultuous relationship. This is one book that will be sticking with me for awhile. Anthony Horowitz, you’ve got yourself a new fan!

Warm thanks to HarperCollins for providing me with a digital copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

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Author: Kaila

My name is Kaila, and I'm a bibliophile with a love of traveling and adventure. When I'm not buried in a book - preferably mysteries, thrillers, and fantasies - you'll find me at work as a software engineer or training as an amateur Muay Thai fighter ... no dull moments here!

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